originally written in English
written in 08.1938 to 08.1939
shows the history between 1900 and 1936
presents the social life of that time
dedicated to the brave soldiers of China
three parts ”the daughters of a Taoist”, “tragedy in the garden”, “the song of autumn”
published in 1940
began with the Boxer Rebellion in 1901 and ended with the beginning of the Sino-Japanese War.
Time magazine said, It may well become the classic background novel of modern China. It uses modern English show the traditional Chinese culture. This novel is neither an apology for contemporary Chinese life nor an expose of it, as so many recent Chinese “dark curtain” novels purport to be. It is neither a glorification of the old way of life nor a defense of the new. It is merely a story of how men and women in the contemporary era grow up and learn to live with one another, how they love and hate and quarrel and forgive and suffer and enjoy, how certain habits of living and ways of thinking are formed, and how, above all they adjust themselves to the circumstances in this earthly life where men strive but the gods rule.
Lin Yutang-林语堂 (1895-1976).Chinese writer, translator, linguist. From 1912-1916 Lin studied at Saint John’s University in Shanghai-Bachelor. Then he went to Harvard University, after one year he moved to France and eventually to Germany, at first he studied at Jena University and then studied comparative linguistics at the University of Leipzig-doctoral degree. His informal but polished style in both Chinese and English made him one of the most influential writers of his generation, and his compilations and translations of classic Chinese texts into English were bestsellers in the West. In comparing East and West, he found no difference so sharp as the attitude toward old age, His many works represent an attempt to bridge the culture gap between the East and the West. He always insisted writing in English, leading interpreter of China to the West. Representative: (1935) My Country and My People, (1937) The Importance of Living, (1939) Moment in Peking, (1941) A Leaf in the Storm, (1943) Between Tears & Laughter, (1948) The Wisdom of Laotse, and so on. All of these are written in English, in which “Moment in Peking”, ”A Leaf in the Storm” and ”The Vermillion Gate” are called the Trilogy of Lin. In 1975, “Moment in Peking” nominated the Nobel Prize in Literature
The novel covers the turbulent events in China from 1900 to 1938, including the Boxer Rebellion, the Republican Revolution of 1911, the Warlord Era, the rise of nationalism and communism, and the origins of the Sino-Japanese War of 1937-1945.
Many characters in Moment in Peking are from three wealthy families: Yao, Tseng (Zeng), and New (Niu). This book mainly deal with these three families describing their prosperity and downfall. A special time as it was, not only did it tell the life of several large families in Peking, but also described genuine historical events which were indispensable to the destiny of characters in this book. Mulan, the favorite daughter of Mr. Yao, the only girl in Peking can recognize bones with ancient inscriptions, which date back to the eighteenth century, before Christ, when she was still a young girl, while traveling with her family during the Boxer Rebellion she is kidnapped by bandits. She is taken by a boxer woman who intends to sell her. Later, Mulan is saved by the Tseng family, the two families thereafter become close friends.
Also in their home, she meets Sunya, who is kind and has good temper, they became good friends and know each other well. After they grew up, Mulan recognized Lifu, a scholar who is integrity and is minded with her. Lifu fell in love with Mulan, and Mulan also has some special feelings toward him. But since the hope of the family Yao and family Tseng Mulan married Sunya und goes into her marriage with a clear conscience. Sunya loves her, she knows, and there is no question that she would love her husband after she marries him. Such love would have no insomnia in it; it is the natural condition of two normal young people paying each other the unique compliment of giving their lives to each other as companions for the future. Although Sunya loves a young beautiful lady at the later time, he lives with Mulan at last and forever, and they have a son and a daughter. Lifu marries Mulan’s little sister-Mochow. Mochow is calm, good education, literary talent, not pampered, Lifu married her is his Lucky in his life. Like Mulan, Mochow also accepted the modern education. But she also has the beauty of traditional woman. If say Mulan like bright flowers, Mochow is like warm jade. When the Sino-Japanese War broke out, they began to fight against Japanese invaders. Mulan’s daughter was shot to death in this time. Her son and Lifu’s son were also enlisted in the army to fight against Japanese invaders.
The author tries not to be overly judgmental of the characters because he recognizes that too many issues were involved in the chaotic years of the early twentieth century China. There are no absolutely right or wrong characters. Each character held a piece of truth and reality and a piece of irrationality. In the preface, Lin writes that It is merely a story of how the Chinese at that era grow up and live, how certain ways of thinking are formed.
The contribution of “Moment in Peking” is to introduce Chinese society to Westerners. Reading dozens of books about China is not as good as reading just one classic, typical Chinese book. When man reads the books about China, just like a head out probe into Chinese society from the outside, but a Chinese book ask you to live with the Chinese people, together with them happy, angry. Understanding their values and world view. Like Lin said, “China is too big a country, and her national life has too many facets for her not to be open to the most diverse interpretations, I can lay bare her troubles because I have not lost hope.”
While the author does not display hatred toward the Japanese, he does let events and situations affecting the novel characters to let the reader clearly see the reason the Chinese are still bitter about Japan’s military past. The novel ends with a cliffhanger, letting the readers hope that the major characters who fled from the coastal regions to the inland of China would survive the horrible war